Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Magic-users, Vancian casting, spell memorization effects

Over at Tenkar's Tavern, Erik makes some good points against the 5e design of mixing Vancian magic with 4e at-will spells for magic-users. Having played a 4e wizard for a few months, I came to have a love-hate relationship with at-will and encounter spells. Being able to something 'magical' each turn was nice, for a while at least. Soon, however, it did not become much different than me saying I attack again, except my attacks could effect multiple individuals and give some minor debuff. In other words, the at-will spells lost their 'magic'.

The great thing about Vancian magic is the 'magical' factor, as excerpted from Turjan of Miir by Al at Beyond the Black Gate. In the comments section of the post at Tenkar's Tavern linked above, David mentions minor at-will effects from spells memorized. This reminded me of one of Philotomy's musings regarding spell special effects, which while very flavorful, is not very useful. While some may disagree that magic-users should always have useful magic available, there is something nice about being able to perform magic more than once a day for a first-level magic-user. So, I decided to jot down some of my ideas for spell memorization effects, which seems to have done already by a couple of others: James M. here and here and trollsmyth.

While there are many great ideas in those posts and the comments, here's my take. In accordance with the excerpt from Turjan of Miir linked above, spells are entities of their own with their own will and agenda. The spells want to be released, and will do what they can to be released. Thus, for a magic-user to use a special effect for a memorized spell, he must try to release just a portion of the spell but resist releasing the entire spell. Since first-level spells are the least 'cogent' spells, they take the least amount of mental energy to 'hold onto'. So first-level spells are the only spells that will yield special effects. Second-level spells and higher will simply be too 'cogent' to release in a partial fashion. Of course, the spell will want to be released at the earliest opportunity and would not be happy with being only partially released. So each time a magic-user attempts to partially release the spell, there is a chance the spell would be fully released against the magic-users will. Thus, the spell caster must decide if partially releasing the spell is a worthwhile risk. I haven't figured out if this should be a simple 1- or 2-in-6, an INT check, or something that scales with level, ideas are appreciated.

Here is a list of the spells from Moldvay's edit of Dungeon and Dragons Basic and my list of partial effects (subject to change, of course, ideas appreciated):

Charm Person: The affected creature (save vs. spells allowed) is dumbstruck for one round and cannot act or move.
Detect Magic: Has a 2-in-6 chance of instantly discovering magic in range.
Floating Disc: As the full spell, but can only carry 50 pounds.
Hold Portal: Will hold shut any portal for one round.
Light: Gives off the equivalent of candlelight from an item held by the caster.
Magic Missile: magic dart - attack roll for 1d4 damage (3 darts at 6th level?)
Protection from Evil: As the full spell, but only lasts one round.
Read Languages: Has a 2-in-6 chance of reading a short passage of any unknown language.
Read Magic: Has a 2-in-6 chance of reading a short passage of magical words or runes.
Shield: As the full spell, but only lasts one round.
Sleep: The affected creatures bodies fall asleep (go numb), -1 to attack rolls, AC and saves for one round.
Ventriloquism: As the full spell, but only lasts one round.

Note: tavisallison at the Mule Abides has a wonderful post regarding Vancian spellcasting that does not address spell memorization effects, but is a great resource for thinking about Vancian spells.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

My gaming past, present, and future

In case people actually start reading this blog, I figured it would be a good idea to give some exposition on my gaming history and why I started blogging.

I was first introduced to D&D in 1992 or so by one of my best friends. He would bring his AD&D 2nd edition Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, Monstrous Compendium, and a variety of the Complete Book of ... to school. He would even let me borrow them and I would read them cover to cover multiple times over breakfast and after school. We would often design characters, but we never actually played the game until 1996 or so, and that only lasted a session or two. I'm not sure why we never got a game off the ground, but I nonetheless knew the rules like the back of my hand.

I was reintroduced to Dungeon and Dragons in 2007-8, when I found a copy of Baldur's Gate for $5 on the used games rack at a video game store. It immediately brought back a flood of memories. I started reading quite a bit about the variety of editions online from original to 3rd edition and found that the OSR met my gaming needs much better than the current games.

I started playing in play-by-post games at ODD74 and Goblinoid Games forums and had a blast, until real life stepped in to put a stop to it. I also found a local tabletop group playing 4e, and I joined them for a few months. While the group was great and the DM had experience with all editions, so the sessions were likely not typical 4e sessions, the game was way too fiddly for my tastes.

Which brings me to now. My son is 3 years old and I'm dying to get him into gaming. I recently purchased the Pathfinder Beginner Box because of the great reviews that many have given it and because I wanted to have the minis that came with it to show to my son. He immediately loved it. I kiddified the game of course - we just picked a mini each to play (he loves the dwarf fighter with the warhammer) and we walked through the dungeon with me asking him questions on what he'd like to do. He often wanted to 'beat up the goblins' and sometimes even 'run away'. He often asks if we can play the 'venture' game. So I think I'm well on my way to getting him hooked.

With this blog, I hope to put down my thoughts on the various rules from the various editions, and the houserules I plan on using and campaign ideas I come up with for once I can actually start real gaming with my son.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Gaven Bonecrusher, Cleric of Light in the West Kingdom PbB campaign

This is my PC in the upcoming West Kingdom play-by-blog Swords and Wizardry: White Box campaign DM'd by Bard. I'm looking forward to see how long I can keep him alive.

Name: Gaven Bonecrusher
Class: Cleric
Level: 2
Alignment: Law

AC: 18 [10 + 6 (Plate mail) + 2 (Shield+1)]; 19 vs. undead
HP: 10/12
To Hit Bonus: 0
Dex Bonus: 0
Save: 14
Save Modifiers: +2 to saves vs. poison and paralysis

STR: 10
INT: 9
WIS: 11
CON: 12
DEX: 12
CHR: 12

Gaven's Club ‘of Light’ - silvered w/ Maggie's Moon Ribbon (+1/+2 vs. were-creatures)
Goblin's spear w/ no tip

Gaven's Holy Symbol ‘of Light', wooden 
Medallion of the Righteous (+1 AC vs. undead)
Plate mail
Borland's Shield (+1 AC)
Fine quality cloak, blue with white-trim

Backpack (30 lb capacity)
Waterskin - filled with clear liquid from font (Blackwell Church)
Rations, trail (3)
Rations, dried (3)
Flint and steel
Torches (6)
Rope (50 ft), silk
Sack (30 lb capacity)
Mirror (small), steel
Case, map/scroll
Parchment, quill, ink 
Distillate of Bezoar (cures any poison if taken quickly before death occurs)
Holy water, small vial 
Wolfsbane, bunch (2)
Holy Water (1)
Spear tip covered in red substance (from Catacombs)
1 Scroll fragment containing part of a Prayer for the Dead
2nd Scroll fragment containing part of a Prayer for the Dead
1 Black Iron Amulet (same symbol as in graffiti in Blackwell Church)

1 Bottle gold liquid
1 Bottles clear liquid (appears same as that taken from font in Blackwell Church)

1 Cleric Scroll: Light

Items given:
Belloc's map
Harlon's map

Turn Undead (HD Undead/Roll over 3d6): 1/7, 2/10, 3/13, 4/15, 5/17

Level 1 spells Known: Cure Light Wounds, Detect Chaos, Detect Magic, Light, Protection from Chaos, Purify Food and Drink

Level 1 spell Memorized: Protection from Chaos

Coins: 26 gp, 5 sp, 4 cp  (75 gp banked in Temple in Fairbrook)

Current XP: 2037.95 / 3000 for level 2

Major expenditures, level 2: 0/751 gp in donations to church

Other Details/Description/Traits:
An unremarkable young carpenter from Woodfield of average height and build with dull brown hair and eyes. He was ‘called by the Light’ one stormy day while gathering wood from North Stagwood with some friends. A group of skeletons came upon them when the storm was fiercest. His friends cowered, but Gaven stood true believing ‘the Light’ would protect him. He was right. As the skeletons approached, a bolt of lightning struck a nearby tree dropping a club-sized branch at Gaven’s feet. With a shout of defiance, a handful of skeletons turned to flee (his friends swear they saw Light emanating from Gaven, though most folks believe this was just a flash of lightning). Gaven then seized the branch and crushed the remaining skeletons, earning him the surname ‘Bonecrusher’.

Gaven used his carpentry skills to fashion an ornate club and holy symbol from the branch given to him by ‘the Light’. He became an acolyte to the church in Woodfield and now he travels to Fairbrook to begin his mission to bring 'Light' to chaos.